26. "Whichever way ye turn, there is the face of God." (Quran 2:115)
c. ~ If this is true, why do the Mohammedans turn their face towards Qibla (i.e., the sacred Mosque at Mecca)? If it be argued that they have been commanded to do so, to answer that they have also been permitted to turn their face in whatever direction they choose. Not which of these two (contradictory statements) should be held to be true. If God has a face, it can only be in one direction and not in all directions at one and the same time.
Firstly, the word 'Mohammedans' is not correct. We are Muslims, followers of Islam, the eternal religion of all Prophets, including the Final Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon all the Prophets). Prophet Muhammad is not the founder of Islam and he never claimed so. Now coming to the verse in question, I will quote it fully.
وَلِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّواْ فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ
"To Allah belongs the East and the West; whithersoever you turn, there is Allah's countenance. For Allah is All-Embracing, All-Knowing."
This verse is actually making it clear that Allah in not confined to a particular place or direction. The facing towards Makkah, in our daily congregational prayers, is purely an organizational requirement. When we pray in congregation, people cannot bow in random directions, for that will cause chaos. There is no conflict or contradiction between these commandments. Dayanand Ji really did not study Islam deeply as he was in a hurry to criticize. Had he read the background of the revelation of this verse, he would not have raised this silly doubt. The authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), give us the following context in which this verse was revealed.
Ibn 'Umar reported that the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) used to say prayer on his camel while coming from Makkah to Madinah, in whatever direction his face had turned; and its was (in this context) that this verse was revealed: "whithersoever you turn, there is Allah's face"
[Sahih Muslim; Book 4, Kitabus Salaah, Hadith 1499]
From the above narrative it is clear that the verse which Swami Dayanand is questioning is not contradicting with the command to face Makkah.It was revealed concerning the voluntary prayers while travelling. They can be prayed in any direction. This verse can also apply to prayer in aeroplanes and in space.
This verse refutes the Vedic falsehood
Another interesting point about this verse is that it refutes the false doctrine of Vedas, which assigns each direction to different deities/gods. Atharvaveda Kaand 3, Sookt 27, Mantras 1 to 6 say,
प्राची दिगग्निरधिपति meaning "Agni is the ruler of the East"
दक्षिणा दिगिन्द्रो अधिपति meaning "Indra is the ruler of the South"
प्रतीची दिग् वरुणो अधिपति meaning "Varuna is the ruler of the West"
उदीची दिक् सोमो अधिपति meaning "Soma is the ruler of the North"
ध्रुवा दिग् विष्णुरधिपति meaning "Vishnu is the ruler of the firm set region (i.e. below)"
ऊर्ध्वा दिग् बृहस्पतिरधिपति meaning "Brihaspati is the ruler of the topmost region"
Thus, the Qur'anic verse in question is refuting this false idea of the Vedas where every direction is assigned to a particular god. The Qur'an reveals the truth that Allah is neither eastern nor western. East and west, north and south, and indeed all places and directions are His, though He is not confined to any particular place or direction. Hence, if any place or direction is fixed for worship this does not mean that Allah dwells there.
The meaning of فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ
'Wajh' وَجْه, is a comprehensive Arabic word. It means (1) literally face, but it may imply (2) countenance or favour, as in Qur'an 92:20; (3) honour, glory. Presence as applied to Allah, as in 4:72; (4) cause, sake (for the sake of) as in 76:8; (5) the first part, the beginning, as in 3:71; (6) nature, inner being, essence, self, as in 5 :111, 27:88, and perhaps also 55:27.
Thus the term 'face of Allah' is merely an idiomatic expression. The verse was also a prophecy that Islam will spread in the East and the West. Muslims turned their faces (attention/worship) to the One and Only God and in consequences dominated the world of polytheism in the East and the West.
Swamiji says that "If God has a face, it can only be in one direction and not in all directions at one and the same time." This type of silly question can only come from an ignorant person. If only Swamiji had read his own Vedas properly. Let us see what the Vedas say.
Rigveda 10/81/3, Yajurveda 17/19, Atharvaveda 13/2/26 mention about God as follows,
विश्वतश्चक्षुरुत विश्वतोमुखो विश्वतोबाहुरुतविश्वतस्पात |
He who has eyes on all sides round about him, a face on all sides, arms and feet on all sides
I wonder why Swamiji raised doubts about the Qur'an, and forgot his own Vedas.
A detailed response on Makkah and Kaaba will be given under response 30.